Loss at Bald Knob ends Tigers’ season
By Scott Loftis
The Green Forest Tigers’ 2020 football season came to an end Friday night with a 28-22 loss at Bald Knob in a play-in game for the Class 4A state playoffs, but a new era of Green Forest football may be just beginning.
The Tigers underwent a season filled with changes and unusual circumstances this fall.
First-year coach Greg Tibbitt installed a new Spread offense that emphasized the passing game in what had been a predominantly run-based program. The transition was hindered when the Tigers lost two weeks of preseason practice to a COVID-19 quarantine after an assistant coach tested positive for the virus. To add to the degree of difficulty, several Green Forest players were sidelined at various times during the season because of COVID-19 concerns. And to top it off, the Tigers opened 4A-1 play with back-to-back games against conference kingpins Prairie Grove and Shiloh Christian on their way to an 0-9 start.
“Missing those 10 days of fall camp and then you go into conference with the two big boys to start off, the front end of the season was kind of set up for that,” Tibbitt said. “I did feel like we finished strong, though.”
Indeed they did.
First, the Tigers beat Berryville 18-12 on Nov. 6 at Bobcat Stadium to win bragging rights in Carroll County. Then, they pushed Bald Knob to the limit last Friday. After trailing 28-16, Green Forest cut the deficit in half on a 3-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Reiley Gordon with 8:50 remaining to play, then recovered an onside kick and drove to the Bald Knob 19 before turning the ball over with 5:48 left.
“We played well,” Tibbitt said. “We couldn’t overcome some penalties and mistakes but we played really well. The kids fought really hard for four full quarters. That’s for sure.”
Gordon completed 19 of 34 passes for 165 yards, including a touchdown pass to senior tight end Adrian Serna that was followed by a two-point conversion to give Green Forest a 16-14 lead with 2:32 left in the second quarter.
Bald Knob (7-4) responded with a touchdown pass of its own for a 20-16 halftime lead, then added another score and a two-point conversion late in the third quarter to make it 28-16.
Gordon ran 12 times for 64 yards and two touchdowns for Green Forest (1-10) while junior running back Barrett Phillips had 25 carries for 88 yards and Serna caught seven passes for 60 yards and a touchdown.
Gordon and Serna are among six Green Forest seniors who won’t be back for the Tigers next fall — five of them three-year starters.
“When you say six seniors it doesn’t sound like a lot,” Tibbitt said, “but you lose a lot of experience with those guys.”
Still, Tibbitt said he was pleased with the Tigers’ effort this season and optimistic about the future.
“I don’t think there’s a coach in the world who would say they wouldn’t want more wins than they had, no matter what the number was,” he said. “I felt like we left some games out there that we could have won and should have won, but I think we have a lot of things to build on and we do have a lot of key parts coming back. It ended up being a pretty good year — not exactly what we wanted but there was a foundation laid, for sure.”